Summits Bring Positive Press And Profits to Host Cities
DEC. 9 was a make or break day for the people of Miami.
After spending about $10 million, arranging some 300 motorcades, planting more than 5,000 trees, and constructing a press center to service 4,000 journalists, Miamians hoped that the weekend's Summit of the Americas would go off without a hitch. By most accounts it did. ''Everything worked out absolutely perfectly,'' says William Cullom, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
Summits bring much attention to their host cities. But do they benefit them economically? In these two cases, at least, long-term gains are expected to outweigh any short-term profits.
For the Dec. 9-11 weekend, hotels were filled with heads of state from 34 countries, their ministerial delegations, and troops of security guards. Taxis shuttled delegates from Miami to Miami Beach and Coral Gables as events throughout the 27 municipalities in Dade County unfolded. ''There isn't a hotel in Dade County that isn't booked solid,'' a Summit of the Americas volunteer said.
That proved to be an exaggeration. Vacancy signs lit up the sticky night air in areas less convenient to summit events, and even the Riande Continental Bayside Hotel, located near where the bulk of meetings took place, had some vacancies.
Miami profited in some ways not likely to be measured. The Vizcaya Palace and Gardens, where hemispheric leaders conducted Saturday's session, cashed in, for instance, by charging the public to view the mahogany table used at the meeting.
But all was not rosy on the retail front. Private retailers say they lost revenue. Warnings of traffic and security problems prompted many Miamians to stay home. Visitors did not make up the difference. Tim Cummins, of the Hard Rock Cafe, said sales were down at his restaurant, one of the closest to the press center.
But, Miamians say, long-term gains were more important than short-term profits. ''It's been so long since we've heard good things said about the city, we were beginning to get a real complex,'' Mr. Cullom says.
Seattle, host of the 1993 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, proves that point.
''We did not see this as a major economic short-term shot in the arm for the city,'' says Ray Waldmann, head of the host committee for APEC leaders. The number of participants was small compared with a standard convention, Mr. Waldmann says. ''[The benefits] are hard to measure. We can't tell the average person in Seattle that trade has permanently increased because of the exposure from the APEC summit,'' he says.
What can be measured are specific outgrowths of the summit. The National Center for APEC -- which is designed to support and research the organization -- was created from a surplus of the host committee funds. An international press center was established with private monies, and an international conference center is under way. The Washington State government won funds from the Legislature for major trade initiatives.
''Washington State has become a major player in the Pacific Rim because we hosted APEC,'' says Robert Randolph, trade representative for Washington.
Getting positive press was especially important for Miami, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently named the metropolitan area having the most crime.
''[People] saw a vibrant city, a global city, and a business capital,'' says Sarah Deben, a director of the Beacon Council in Miami, its economic-development office.